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March 2011 - Leaders Must Use Nonverbal Communication

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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Dr. John KlineNonverbal symbols often transmit even more information than the words leaders use. We communicate nonverbally in three ways—through our actions, thru symbols that do not involve actions and through our voice.

Actions carry meaning. Body language, eye contact, gestures and facial expression affect the meaning listeners attach to a message. For that matter, any movement or action carries meaning. Studies show followers both listen better and understand the message better when leaders use effective eye contact. This is true for two reasons. Leaders appear more interested in their followers and they are perceived by followers as being more credible. Body language and gestures that communicate openness, friendliness, and concern cause followers to be more receptive and understanding of the leader’s message. Finally, smile—look alive and involved—and you will be a more successful communicator and leader.

Non-actions also carry meaning. Leaders’ personal appearance, things they consider important and being on time all communicate meaning. For example, if a leader has an appointment with followers at noon, but arrives 15 minutes late, the leader’s tardiness may adversely affect how the followers interpret the leader’s comments. If leaders dress inappropriately their message may suffer. General disinterest in followers communicates the lack of importance the leader attaches to them. Effective leaders are conscious that such things affect their message.

The voice carries meaning. Nowhere is this truer than in the leader/follower relationship. If you have a dog, try an experiment where you say the following phrase using different vocal tones: “You are sure a dumb dog to do that.” First say it in the most loving gentle way as you smile and stroke the animal. Next say the same words with as little vocal meaning and expression as possible. Finally scream the words in the meanest way possible. Notice the difference. The voice carries much meaning irrespective of the words used. Leaders work hard to use their voices effectively.

Leaders must pay attention to their nonverbal behavior.

Leaders must be listeners.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama
jkline@klinespeak.com

March 2011 - Leaders Must Use Nonverbal Communication
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